Roast Pumpkin and Coriander Mezzalunas with Tomato and Roast Pepper Sauce

 

 

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I am quite new to making my own pasta. In fact, I had not stuffed a single ravioli in my life till last Christmas, when I found a Kitchenaid pasta attachment under the tree. When I made my first batch, filled with ricotta and chives if I remember correctly, I was prepared for exploding pasta disaster. And, just like I thought, my pasta sheets turned out wonky, the pasta seemed to dry out as I was rolling it, and some of my filling came out as I stuffed my tortellini, or whatever shape I was trying to mould them into. The result? The best filled pasta I ever tasted. Homemade filled pasta is so much more than the sum of its parts (one of those parts being my relative inexperience). So, newbie or not, I proudly present my own creation: roast pumpkin and coriander mezzalunas with tomato and roast pepper sauce.

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The pumpkin is roasted with chilli/garlic oil and thyme, then blitzed in the food processor and joined by some fresh coriander.

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20140530-090032-32432171.jpgThe sauce may sound like it involves a lot of work but I have taken a few short cuts here, because although making the pasta and the filling is far from difficult, you do have your work cut our for you as it is. Enjoyable work, that is. All you do is fry one clove of garlic in a smidge of olive oil, add a tin of chopped tomatoes and reduce it a bit. As you already have your food processor (or stick blender) out, just rinse the bowl and whizz up your tomatoes with some roast peppers from a jar. It’s as simple as that.

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I am not going to lie to you. Making fresh pasta is a bit fiddly and after you’re done, you’ll have some cleaning up to do. Making fresh pasta, filling it and cooking a nice sauce to go over it is, shall we say, slightly more fiddly and will leave your kitchen looking someone set off a bomb in it. Now I am the sort of cook who kneads his bread in the Kitchenaid because it is a) less messy and b) less work and doesn’t like the words ‘icing sugar’ because it will mean more cleaning, so you can trust me when I say that these mezzalunas and their sauce are more than worth the effort of making them and cleaning up after them.

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Having said that, if you’re going to make these, do it on the weekend or on any other day when you have time to potter about in the kitchen. I think the best advice I can give you when it comes to making filled fresh pasta is to clear your kitchen surfaces, because you’re going to need them. If you don’t have a lot of space in your kitchen, you can create more surfaces by putting a cutting board over your sink or cooker.

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As I said earlier, making fresh pasta is not difficult, but there is one tricky bit: you have to make sure your pasta doesn’t dry out too much before you fill it, and cook it quite quickly after you have. Some recipes tell you to keep the pasta moist under a wet tea towel but for some reason I draw the line at wet towels covered with flour. I don’t know why, it must be some psychological barrier. My solution is to roll and fill small batches, keeping the cut-out mezzalunas (well, full moons at that stage) under a dry tea towel, and to cook them as soon as I’ve filled the last one. I cook these mezzalunas in two batches, eating in between and after. None too practical? Maybe. But I think cooking should be relaxing, and the times I’ve rolled, cut, filled and cooked these in one go, all I did was stress over whether they were going to dry out too much (they did a bit) or stick to my floured chopping board or baking mat (they did a bit). Plus I actually like the anticipation of a second batch, when you’re still peckish and looking forward to round two.

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I get the heavy machinery out for these. I knead the pasta dough with the Kitchenaid, roll out the sheets using the same machine, and I blitz both the filling and the sauce in the Magimix. You could of course knead the dough by hand, and the roast pumpkin is soft enough to mash up with a fork or masher.

Before I forget, a palette knife is your best friend when you are making these. It will slide under your pasta easily when you need to lift it from your work surfaces.


20140530-090032-32432850.jpgFor the filling 

400 g peeled pumpkin (peeled weight), cut into bited-sized bits

chilli and garlic oil (I buy this ready-mixed)

1 tsp of dried thyme

salt to taste

3 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped

 

– Preheat the oven to 190°C

– Mix all ingredients in a bowl, then spread out on a roasting tray and bake for about 45 minutes. The pumpkin should be soft.

– Put the roast pumkin in the bowl of your processor (or stick blender) and turn it into a paste.

– Add the chopped coriander and pulse. Do not incorporate the coriander completely, you should still be able to see green flecks.

 

20140530-100711-36431681.jpgFor the pasta

300 g hard (’00’) flour

3 large eggs

splash of olive oil

 

– Put all ingredients in the bowl of your Kitchenaid and mix with the flat attachment.

– Once mixed, knead with the dough hook for about five minutes until you have a firm dough.

– Divide into four pieces using a knife or dough scraper. Wrap individually in cling film and chill in the fridge for thirty minutes or longer.

 

20140530-090033-32433539.jpgFor the sauce

1 clove of garlic, minced or grated

olive oil

1 x 400 g tin of chopped tomatoes

2 whole roast peppers from a jar

salt and pepper

 

– In a small saucepan, heat up the oil with the garlic in it until the garlic sizzles (I find this prevents burning).

– Add the tin of tomatoes.

– Bring to the boil and let simmer for 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened.

– Let cool a bit, then put into the bowl of your processor and add the roast peppers.

– Blitz into a sauce and season to taste.

 

20140529-211329-76409177.jpgPreparation

– Put a large pan of water on to boil.

– Take one ball of dough, halve it and put the other half back in the fridge, wrapped.

– Roll out your pasta, using your pasta machine or pasta attachment. Start at setting one. Roll your dough, fold it in two and run it through again. Repeat four or five times until the dough is no longer sticky.

– Now roll out the dough (no longer folding) a few times on each consecutive setting until you reach five (if you prefer, go down to six).

– Cut out rounds, using a 6 cm pastry/cookie cutter with fluted edges.

– Put these rounds on a floured surface or (floured) silicon baking mat and cover with a tea towel until you’ve cut up an entire pasta sheet.

– Dollop a bit of the filling in the middle of a cut-out circle of pasta.

– Brush the edge of one half of the circle, fold over the other half and seal the edges. I find it easier to pick up the pasta and do this between my fingers.

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– Repeat until you’ve filled all your circles.

– Lay your filled pasta on a floured surface and cover with a tea towel.

– Repeat until you’ve used up half of your pasta and filling.

– Slowly heat up your tomato and pepper sauce.

– Now cook your mezzalunas in the boiling water. If they stick to the bottom of your pan, nudge them gently with a spatula. They should float up to the surface.

– Try one to see if they are done to your liking (believe me, by this stage you’ll want to eat these puppies).

– Serve with the sauce.

– Repeat with the other half of your ingredients.

 

 

 

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Sourdough Pancakes OR Buttermilk Pancakes

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Allow me to introduce Tartarus. He’s a hungry little guy with a bubbly personality. He likes to be fed on time and becomes a big strapping lad when you do, but turns nasty and sour when you don’t.

Okay, enough of that, I am talking about my sourdough starter, who did actually turn one year old very recently. No need to mention the number of near-death experiences the poor guy has had over the course of that year.

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A sourdough starter, or ‘levain’ is used to make bread rise. What’s wrong with yeast, you ask? Nothing at all. Actually, yeast is more reliable and generally easier to work with than a starter. But making sourdough bread is fun, and I think the tangy flavour it gives makes our daily bread a bit more interesting.

In fact, I would love to add that special sourdough flavour to lots of other bakes. And this is where Mother Nature lends a hand. Because the thing about starters is that you need to feed them. Even though a lot of sourdough bakers (including me) affectionaly name their starters, you’re basically talking about ravenous fungi that are always waiting for their next meal. Not terribly romantic, but there it is.

Feeding a starter means you halve it and add fresh water and flour to one half to make sure your starter lives to see another day. Ideally, you would bake with the other half but if, like me, you can’t always fit baking a sourdough loaf into your schedule, you either chuck the other half of the starter, which is wasteful, or… turn it into pancakes.

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I usually feed Tartarus, who spends most of his life in the fridge, on Thursdays (yes, my life is that exciting). Which means that, if I’m not baking bread with his Other Half, Friday is pancake day.

To tell you the truth, I’ve always considered pancakes to be kid’s food; not terribly interesting. But these sourdough and buttermilk pancakes take them to a whole new mature, tangy, airy level.

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This recipe is based on one from the Arthur Flour website (http://www.kingarthurflour.com). I’ve made it healthier by reducing the oil content and by using a mix of plain and wholemeal flour, instead of just plain. This gives them more texture and flavour and makes them more substantial. It makes a great frothy mixture not unlike a crumpet batter.

The choice of fillings is of course completely up to you. In this case, I filled mine with wilted spinach, mushrooms fried in a chilli and garlic oil, and semi-dried tomatoes.

I realise that this post is quite specific, in the sense that you need a sourdough starter to make these pancakes. But the good news is: you don’t! I didn’t want anyone to feel left out, which is why I have also included a recipe for buttermilk pancakes. Again based on an Arthur Flour recipe and made with half plain and half wholemeal flour. They are truly delicious, but the sourdough ones are just that bit more special when it comes to flavour and texture. If you are not a bread baker but a pancake fiend, keeping a sourdough starter in the fridge just to make these would not be a bad idea. If anyone is interested, I could post a ‘recipe’ for a starter.

The sourdough pancake recipe involves making a sponge: a mixture of your starter, a liquid, and flour that is left to stand overnight or for a day. This intensifies the flavour and improves the texture. If you want to have pancakes for breakfast, make the sponge before you go to bed. I you want to eat them for dinner, mix up your sponge in the morning.

You can also use this batter to make waffles but, as I don’t own a waffle iron, I don’t speak from experience. If you can’t find buttermilk, you can make something very close to it by adding 1 tsp of lemon juice to every 250 ml of milk and letting it stand for five minutes.


Both recipes make about 15 medium-sized pancakes

Sourdough Pancakes  

 

For the sponge

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120 g plain flour

120 g wholemeal flour

30 g sugar

240 g sourdough starter, unfed, stirred well

580 g buttermilk (you know, while you have your scales out. The amount of liquid you’ll need depends on your starter and your flours, so you could put in a bit less at this stage and add some more once you’ve made the batter, if necessary.)

 

– Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl, cover and let rest at room temperature (overnight or for a day)

 

For the pancake batter

the sponge

2 eggs

2 tbsp flavourless vegetable oil

¾ tsp salt

1 tsp sodium bicarbonate

 

– Beat together the eggs and the oil and add them to the sponge.

– Add the salt and bicarb and stir well (and enjoy the frothing of the batter)

– Heat a small knob of butter or some vegetable oil in a skillet and bake the pancakes. Try to keep them as thin as you can.

– You can keep the pancakes warm between two plates (in a very low oven, if you like)

– Fill with whatever you fancy.

 

Buttermilk pancakes

20140527-173224-63144819.jpg170 g plain flour

170 g wholemeal flour

4 heaped tsp baking powder

½ tsp sodium bicarbonate

30 g sugar

generous pinch of salt

700 ml buttermilk (the amount of liquid you’ll need depends on your flours, so you could add a bit less and thin down the batter later, if necessary)

2 tbsp flavourless vegetable oil

2 eggs

 

20140528-110505-39905431.jpg– Whisk together the flours, baking powder, bicarb, sugar, and salt.

– Beat together the buttermilk, oil and eggs and add to the dry ingredients.

– Mix until blended.

– Heat a small knob of butter or some vegetable oil in a skillet and bake the pancakes. Try to keep them as thin as you can.

– You can keep the pancakes warm between two plates (in a very low oven, if you like)

– Fill with whatever you fancy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hello followers,

It’s been barely ten days since my first blog post, but it feels like much longer. I am enjoying blogging even more than I thought I would, despite my busy work schedule.

This post is just to say that you can now follow me on Twitter (TheVegetableChopper@Poort1976) and Bloglovin. Pinterest and Instagram will follow.

 

Enjoy your weekend and thank you for following my blog,
Joost

 

 

 

Spinach, Peppadew and Feta muffins

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As much as I love baking things like chocolate cake and sugary meringues, if I were forced to choose between sweet and savoury baking, savoury would win hands down. Now before you reach for the unfollow button, let me assure you that there will be plenty of sweet treats on this blog, eventually.

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The thing about sweet bakes is that the joy for me is more in the actual baking than it is in the eating. Not because I count calories, but just because one sweet muffin or slice of cake will do me. I simply don’t have a sweet tooth. Now savoury baking is a whole different story. As I am typing, I am demolishing my third spinach, Peppadew and feta muffin (it’s a good thing you can wipe the screen of an Ipad), while telling myself that this morning’s workout should even it all out. Come to think of it, maybe I should stick to sugary treats…

 

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These muffins are right up my street. The tang of the feta and the saltiness of the Parmesan take centre stage but the hint of spinach and peppers makes it all a bit more interesting. I have to disagree with the Guardian (where I got this recipe from) and say that these are not ‘muffins for kids’ but grown-up ones that would go down very well with a drink, as they are doing right now, in fact.

You can find the recipe for these muffins here: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/jul/29/cook-kids-savoury-muffins

I didn’t tweak it all that much. My block of Parmesan was only 145 grams and that turned out to be enough, so you can safely reduce the cheese a bit. I used Peppadews instead of regular roast peppers and next time I make these (and I certainly will), I will use a teaspoon of chilli powder instead of paprika.

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One more thing, don’t worry if your muffin ‘batter’ is more like a dough. I thought it would be a baking disaster but they turned out splendidly. This batter made 12 slightly larger muffins instead of the 16 in the recipe, by the way.

Cheese and Lentil Loaf with Moonblush Tomato Sauce

I know it’s taking a bit of a risk, kicking off a vegetarian blog with a lentil dish. Lentils aren’t the sexiest of ingredients, and I suppose they remind some people of the sort of dishes that have undeservedly given vegetarian cooking a bad rap.

To be honest, my eyes don’t light up as soon as I hear the word lentils, either. Unless I am thinking of dishes like dhal, made with any combination of lentils and pulses, or this delicious cheese and lentil loaf.

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I was given this recipe on a food forum years ago as something to cook for those times when you’re struggling to make ends meet but still want to eat something tasty. Meaning the end of pretty much every month in my house. I don’t think I had ever cooked lentils before but I was intrigued (and skint), so I decided to try it and loved it. I have made this countless times since then, and it has never received anything but praise, even from the most lentil-phobic carnivores.

I wish I could remember the name of the person who gave me and the other forummers this recipe, so I could thank her. Because, frankly, I think it’s brilliant. It can be a perfect, easy weekday meal for 2-3, a light starter for when you have guests over and, baked in a round tin and cut into triangular wedges, served as a snack with drinks. And any leftover bits make a great filling for a sandwich, drizzled with Sriracha sauce, or any sauce you like.

Another bonus is that you can play around with it as much as you like. Sub the coriander I’ve used here with basil, chives, oregano, you name it, either fresh or dried. Or grate in that last carrot that’s been haunting the fridge (thank you for experimenting with this recipe, Hazzer), the end bit of a bag of frozen peas or a few handfuls of spinach. But don’t go overboard because if you add too much extra liquid, you might end up with lentil porridge instead of a nice cheesy loaf.

This loaf is made with red lentils, my pulse of choice. I love their smell as they cook, their earthy flavour, and the fact that they cook into a paste. Beluga or Puy lentils, which hold their shape and are often used in salads, etc, are not my favourites. Red lentils also work really well cooked with their slightly sturdier cousins, like yellow split peas or mung beans.

Now for the moonblush tomato sauce.

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When I’m in a hurry or just can’t be bothered to roast tomatoes, I briefly fry a grated clove of garlic in a bit of olive oil, add a tin of cubed tomatoes, any fresh or dried herb, some pepper and salt, and let it cook down a bit until thickened. When I do go the extra mile, I make Nigella Lawson’s moonblush tomatoes from Nigella Express (http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/moonblush-tomatoes-58and blitz them into a sauce. What I love about these tomatoes is that, in the evening, all you have to do is crank up the oven to high, halve the tomatoes, sprinkle and drizzle, bung them in, and turn the oven off. The next morning,  you have a batch of perfect, homemade, semi-dried tomatoes.

 

Enjoy!


Moonblush Tomato Sauce

500 g cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tsp (Maldon) sea salt (or to taste)

¼ tsp granulated sugar

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tbsp olive oil

 

– Preheat the oven to 220°C.

– Lay the tomatoes on a lined baking tray, cut side up. Sprinkle with the salt, sugar, thyme and olive oil.

– Put the tray in the oven, and immediately turn it off. Leave the tomatoes in the oven overnight or for a day without opening the door.

– Blitz the tomatoes into a sauce, using a stick blender or (mini)  food processor.

 

Cheese and Lentil Loaf 

I bake this in a silicon 24 x 9 x 6 cm ‘tin’ that is completely non-stick. You’d need to line a metal tin.

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175 g red lentils, rinsed and drained well

350 ml water

110 g mature grated cheddar or Gouda cheese

3 spring onions (or 1 small onion), chopped finely

3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander or any fresh or dried herb you prefer

Sriracha sauce/harissa/sambal or whatever hot sauce you like, to taste (optional)

squirt of lemon juice

1 egg, beaten

salt and pepper

 

 

20140521-211653-76613150.jpg– Preheat the oven to 190°C

– Put lentils and water in a smallish pan and bring to the boil. Cover, turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until you have a stiff lentil paste. Check after 10 minutes to see if it’s not drying out too much.

– Take the pan off the heat and stir in all of the other ingredients.

– Put this ‘batter’ in the tin and bake for 45-50 minutes until golden and set.

– Leave the loaf to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes while you heat up the sauce.

– Slice the loaf and serve with the sauce and a salad.